David T. Laton, Attorney at Law
Leading clients through estate planning and probate in Dayton, Ohio

Last Will and Testament - Basics

Last Will and Testament - Basics

Commonly referred to simply as a Will, this legal document states how a person would like his or her possessions and assets to be distributed after death. The person who is distributing their property through the Will is called the testator. Anyone who is eligible to receive the testator's property is called a beneficiary, and provisions in the Will leaving property to beneficiaries are called bequests. A testator should also designate a trusted individual to serve as the executor of the estate. The executor is responsible for making sure the testator's wishes are carried out.

In Ohio, a testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Sound mind means that the testator must be mentally capable of making bequests in the Will; the testator must be able to identify what property and assets they own, where it is located, and to whom he or she would like to give the property after death.

Under Ohio law, Wills must be written documents and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, who then also sign the Will - this is called executing the document, and makes it official. The two witnesses must be disinterested, meaning that they are not beneficiaries named in the Will. Please note that a Will cannot be notarized to make it official - it must be signed by the testator and the witnesses. There are some exceptions to the requirement that the Will must be written, but it is best to have your Will properly executed so as to not leave anything to chance.

After you create, and properly execute, your Will, it is effective for the rest of your life. For this reason, it is a good idea to re-examine your Will periodically - at least every few years. Life is full of changes, both expected and unexpected. A Will you create now might not accurately reflect your wishes in the near future. If you had a Will drafted in the past, it might not accurately reflect your wishes now. You can revoke your Will at any time by destroying the original signed document, or you can create a new one. Creating a new Will revokes any previous Wills.

Wills and Codicils

A codicil is an amendment to a Will. It does not revoke an existing Will, it only adds to the existing Will. Codicils might be a better option than having a new Will created if your life circumstances have changed in simple, less-dramatic ways. For example, if you purchased a vacation home or a new vehicle after your Will was executed, a codicil allows you to distribute that property through the existing Will to your beneficiaries without needing to draft a whole new Will.

Wills and Probate

After death, a Will should be admitted to the probate court of the county where the testator lived (after death, the testator will be referred to as the decedent). While personal property, such as electronics, jewelry, tools, and furniture, can be divided among beneficiaries without much hassle, more complicated transfers, such as money in bank accounts and titles to houses and vehicles, can only be accomplished by a court-appointed fiduciary. The fiduciary is responsible for the assets of the decedent's estate, and this person is usually the executor named in the Will. The Will, along with an application and filing fee, must be submitted to the court to begin the process.

Contact David Laton Today

David's office is located in Dayton, Ohio, and he represents clients throughout Montgomery County and Greene County. Schedule a consultation with David today by calling 937-949-1104. You can also send an email.

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